by Peg DeGrassa email@example.com @PeggyDe5 on Twitter
CONCORD — Rain may have postponed the Bocce Tournament from opening up the 2019 Senior Games at Rose Tree Park Monday morning, but an inside Pickleball Tournament went on, as planned, in Concord Township at O’Donoghue Field House.
About 60 seniors competed on ten courts in what was the official kickoff of the Delaware County Senior Games, scheduled for June 10-21. The tournament will continue Tuesday, June 11, from 8:30 a.m. until about 3 p.m., when the games are done. About 60 more participants are expected for Tuesday’s tournament.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated ball over a net. The ball, served underhand, is hit diagonally to the opponent’s service zone, with points scored by the serving side when the opposing player is unable to return the shot. The winning side is the first to score 11 points and lead by at least two.
Organized by Betty Allcorn of Concord, a longtime member of the Garnet Valley Gherkins, the Delaware County Senior Games Pickleball tournament has been in existence since 2012. The non-profit Garnet Valley Gherkins pickleball league was established in 2011 and its members participate in the Senior Games every year. The Garnet Valley Gherkins play three times per week all year long. From June to August, players travel to outside courts in New Castle, Del., and in the other months, players compete at the O’Donoghue Field House on Thornton Road.
“Our group started in 2011 with 12 players and we now have over several hundred,” Allcorn said. “We hope that construction will begin on our own outdoor courts here in Concord this fall so that we don’t have to travel to Delaware in the nicer weather to play.”
As she placed gold medals around participants’ necks Monday afternoon, Allcorn seemed pleased with the outcome of the Pickleball tournament’s opening day. “Delaware County and the Garnet Valley Gherkins have formed a great partnership,” she said, glancing proudly at the medal winners. “The Gherkins really look forward to this tournament each June. I have not one complaint about it and luckily there were no injuries today. Everyone seemed to have a really good time.”
Seniors Ann Koger of Upper Darby and Lisa Alessi of Havertown were also Gold Medal winners. The friends say they are veteran pickleball players who play regularly at Paddock Park in Havertown.
Skip Alexander of Telford, Pa., and his sister Georgia Billger of Rehoboth Beach, Del., also play pickleball regularly. Alexander plays twice a week and Billger hits the courts three times each week. The brother and sister came to the Delaware County pickleball tournament because they heard about it through Betty Allcorn.
“We play a lot of tournaments, but we always enjoy this one because it’s a lot of fun,” Alexander shared.
Over 650 senior athletes, ages 50-103, are signed up to participate in the 2019 Delaware County Senior Games. According to a county spokesperson, 144 athletes are 80 years of age or older, including 22 athletes who are age 90 or older. Delaware County senior athletes will have the chance to showcase their athletic skills throughout the county and compete for medals in a variety of Olympic-style sports including golf, bowling, table tennis, Wii Bowling, shuffleboard, bocce, billiards, swimming, horseshoes, pickleball, and track & field. Cornhole will be held as an exhibition this year at 9 a.m. Friday, June 14, at Veteran’s Park, Broomall.
This year’s theme of all the Games is “Compete, Connect, Conquer” and residents 50 years and older of every skill level are encouraged to participate. Spectators are also welcome.
Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in every age category and all participating seniors and volunteers receive a free Senior Games T-shirt. A Winner’s Circle luncheon celebration will be held in July.
According to the county’s press release, “Physical activity, even moderate, can help seniors by improving mental capacity, preventing disease, improving healing, increasing balance, and increasing life expectancy. The games encourage older residents to stay socially and physically active throughout the year and achieve their personal best. The games also foster friendships among the athletes.”
This year, the Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County is partnering with the Delaware County Senior Games by hosting the swimming events at Ridley High School. The Delaware County Senior Games are sponsored by Delaware County Council, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Destination Delco, and the County of Delaware Services for the Aging (COSA). Co-chairs for the 2019 Senior Games are Marc Manfre, director of Parks and Recreation, Denise Stewart, director of COSA and Steve Byrne, executive director of Delaware County’s Tourism Bureau Destination Delco.
For more information on the Delaware County Senior Games or a full schedule of dates and times, visit www.delcoseniorgames.org or call 610-891-4663.